Lack of coordination and unity among their foot soldiers is the latest worry the leadership of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party is grappling with as the time-tested allies brace for the high-pitched Lok Sabha elections in Punjab, it is learnt.
This ‘lack of coordination’ emerged as a core issue on Sunday during a meeting chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, Punjab BJP chief Kamal Sharma and senior BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon held at the SAD office here. This meeting, which lasted three hours, was also attended by all 13 candidates the coalition partners have fielded for the April 30 elections, according to details emanating from SAD-BJP camps.
As part of their coalition agreement, the SAD is contesting 10 Lok Sabha seats and the BJP, three.
Initially, all leaders, including the contesting candidates, held a joint meeting and discussed the overall election scenario in the state and the preparedness. The impact or otherwise of the Congress’ move of fielding Capt Amarinder Singh from Amritsar and Ambika Soni from Anandpur Sahib also cropped up. The leaders dwelt at length over these unexpected moves of the Congress and stressed the need of “zero complacency” by the cadre at the booth level and better booth managements.
Later, the candidates met the state leaders separately and aired views ranging from the SAD cadre not actively participating in the campaign of saffron party leaders and viceversa to the ‘perception problem’ of the Youth Akali Dal, which gets linked with issues having an adverse impact on the image of the SAD-BJP government.
“This election is a test of unity between SAD and BJP cadres,” a BJP leader said.
It is learnt that the SAD’s main grouse was that BJP cadre had shifted their base to Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur constituencies, from where the saffron party is contesting. Similarly, BJP leaders pointed out that they were not getting much-needed support of the SAD cadre, especially in Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur.
Some of the candidates pointed out that the image of the government had been hit hard by the rising prices of sand and gravel and their scarcity. They told their leadership that the common man was linking SAD-BJP leaders with the sand shortage and its skyrocketing prices.
“The objective of this meeting was to assess our weakness and take remedial steps,” said an SAD leader.